Allah may be merciful, bountiful, and compassionate, but Pakistan is not. Leading into the holy month of Ramadan, Karachi is contemplating an offensive against an influx of unwelcome beggars.
One official dismissed them as “professional beggars” involved in “crimes.” Citizens and policy makers are complaining that more isn’t being done to “combat begging.”
Remember, Pakistan is one of a few countries in the world with legally mandated zakat, the proceeds of which are said to be given to the poor (although news reports have indicated that only half of Pakistan’s zakat goes to the poor). Enlightened Western intellectuals have told us that zakat is remarkable anti-poverty program and a sign of social justice. Yeah, right.
From The News International on Jul. 24:
Number of beggars rising in city ahead of Ramazan
As soon as the holy month of Ramazan comes closer, the number of beggars coming to Karachi from various parts of the country increases day by day.
The number of beggars in the city Karachi exceeds the estimated figures shown by the government.
“The number of beggars is much higher than what the latest statistics indicate. Most of the beggars come to Karachi from other parts of the country to earn more money during Ramazan,” said Muhammad Ali, president of Roshni Help Line.
He said that his organisation would soon start a campaign for mapping various areas, keeping data of beggars’ groups to compliment efforts for the safety and security of children in the city.
Answering a question, he said that professional beggars roamed free in all corners of the city and nobody knew or suspected in what criminal activities they were involved since there was no record of them.
It had been observed that “many of these professional beggars are suspected of involvement in different crimes related to children, including kidnappings”, he added.
Ali said beggars kidnapped children between 3 and 5 for beggary. He said this was due to the fact that no government organisation kept a close eye on the beggars.
He noted that the numbers of beggars were growing on the streets of Karachi, especially at traffic signals, near shopping malls and outside mosques. The majority of the beggars hailing from various parts were not only old men, women and children, but also young men who were able to work, he added.
Ali said that another remarkable feature was that begging continued throughout the day and night, and even women and young children stayed up till the early hours.
“During last year’s floods, we established our camp in Makli. We found there many beggar families of Karachi, getting medicines and food aid.”
Commenting on the growing phenomenon, some citizens said beggars were now coming right to their homes. “They do not hesitate to knock on the door, especially in the afternoons, to ask for money. This is a grave matter with serious security implications,” one citizen said. He did not want to be identified.
A number of concerned officials and citizens criticised the relevant offices for failing to combat begging. They accused the authorities of slackness in their response to calls by citizens informing them of beggars at certain places. “We are asked to call these offices to report beggars but there is no one there to heed our calls,” a citizen said.
The citizens asked the Ministry of Social Welfare to either put pressure on these offices or close them down. They also called for providing the offices with qualified human cadre, cars and other facilities as well as for introduction of a single helpline to handle reports of beggars.
Many citizens who spoke to The News believed that many beggars came to Karachi from various parts to continue their business. They said security procedures to combat begging must be revamped.
Researchers interviewed said that awareness programmes against begging had not been effective. They called for more effective programmes that would convince people about the dangers posed by beggars.
They also said the programmes should inform people about where they should direct their charity given that the country was full of welfare societies that administered charity properly to the poor.